Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Visit to the Getty Center

My husband, mother-in-law and I took a half-day this week to visit the Getty Center in Los Angeles.  I hadn't been there in about 2 years and, on the last occasion, the central garden was looking pretty shabby.  The garden subsequently closed for a time to undergo a major clean-up.  It reopened several months ago but this was the first opportunity we had to spend some time there.

I have to confess that the garden didn't strike me with the awe it inspired during my first visits in its early years but that may be because it hasn't reached the peak of bloom yet.  Most of the roses weren't in bloom and many of the foliage plants were just coming out of dormancy.  The gale force winds we experienced earlier in the week probably didn't help either.  Those disclaimers aside, it's still a fabulous garden.

We started at the top of the stream garden.

View from the upper level of the stream garden

Melianthus major
Euphorbia and hellebore

Athanasia acerosa aka Coulter Bush (I had to look this one up in an old guide to the Getty's central garden)
Astelia nivicola 'Red Gem'

Russelia equisetiformis bordered by Loropetalum chinense and Phormium

Angelica pachycarpa and Phormium 'Amazing Red' with Euphorbia, Nandina and Hellebores
View from the lower end of the stream garden looking up

At the end of the stream garden are the famous Bougainvillea "trees."

Bougainvillea grown up bent metal rods

The main section of the central garden overlooks a sculpted Azalea hedge, which people seem to either love or hate.  It had very few blooms at the time of our visit.

A few red Azalea add a tinge of color to the elaborate hedge

The circular central garden is surrounded by an outer border planted with Lagerstoemia (Crape Myrtle) and Tulbaghia violacea (Society Garlic)

Geranium maderense

Allium ('Globemaster'?)

Allium (cristophii?)
Watsonia intermedia

Brugmansia suaveolens 'Charles Grimaldi'

The white rose on this arbor was the only one in full bloom

Eryngium 'Sapphire Blue'

Canna with Geranium, poppies and nemesia

My identification of the plants shown above was aided by the Getty garden guide I purchased during my one of my earlier visits in 2003 or 2004.  Many of the plants listed in the original guide appear to be missing from the current garden - some are perhaps still dormant but I think some have been removed entirely.

The Getty Center also has a large cactus garden.

Main cactus garden

Cactus garden along stairway

The view of the city from the cactus garden area is tremendous.

Century City is visible on the right and downtown LA can be seen in the distance on the left

The UCLA campus and Westwood

A hazy view of the ocean to the west

My main reason for going to the Getty is always the garden but there's a lot more there.  In addition to the museum's permanent collections of art and sculpture, there are always new pieces and new exhibitions.  We came across this interesting sculpture by Rene Magritte on loan to the Getty.

"Delusions of Grandeur" by Rene Magritte

As much as we liked our tour of the gardens and the grounds, we also enjoyed a new exhibit entitled "Overdrive: LA Constructs the Future, 1940-1990."  It was a multi-media exhibition, including photos, videos, oral histories, and architectural renderings and models, which shows the explosive growth and transformation of Los Angeles County over 5 decades.  A graphic depiction of the spread of the population, the formation of new cities, the creation of freeways (after the demise of a once impressive electric rail system), and the development of the water transportation system was particularly interesting.  You can find more information on this exhibit, including some of the videos that make up the exhibit here.  It's worth a visit even if you're not an Angeleno.


  1. Boy, you've been getting around lately, haven't you? I've seen this garden a few times through the eyes of various bloggers and definitely would like to see it in person too. Isn't there an estate location nearby as well?

    1. Yes, the Getty Villa is close by, located in Pacific Palisades. I've never been there but I understand that it's also impressive, if much smaller.

  2. That garden looks fabulous - and very large! I imagine visiting it at its peak would be stunning. Looks like an amazing array of plants, and I love the dramatic way they have some of them planted.

    1. According to the Getty's website, the central garden is 134,000 square feet. It isn't something that can be replicated in a home garden but the plant combinations provide inspiration. Although installed an maintained by a horticulturist, Jim Duggan, the garden was designed by an artist, Robert Irwin.

  3. Thank you for taking us along on this stunning tour. Can we go back in a month or two? LOL.

    Thank you for your kind words about my Stick House on my blog.

    1. The garden's designer, Robert Irwin, described it as "always changing, never twice the same." I'd like to get back there sometime this summer, although the place gets crazy crowded at that time of year. Thanks for sharing the visit with me NellJean.